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January 5th, 2012

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09:30 am - Forgiving the past.
In the quest to become less codependent, I first must internalize my own worth.

I'm pretty sure I'm a slightly atypical case in that, at least logically speaking, I know my worth. My devaluation of self is emotionally based. Abandonment issues, mostly, which have their roots in my Mom doing the right thing and getting out before she was killed. Her only mistake was trusting so-called experts who told her that we would be safe with him. Well, Jack was. I wasn't.

The perspective of three decades having passed since then has allowed me to really see everything that took place and to forgive my Pop for things he did when he wasn't right in the head. It also has allowed me to forgive my brother for things he said or did as a kid that have left scars on my soul. Neither of them did these things on purpose to harm me, but you know, they did them, and they did harm me. Forgiving is for me, really, because I am unwilling to swallow any more of the poison of anger from a lifetime ago. Pop long ago apologized, though he honestly couldn't remember any of what happened. He KNEW, because there was the evidence right in front of him, but he had no direct access to his own memory of the horrors he inflicted upon us. During that final year of his life he and I worked through it all, and he said "I know I hurt you, and I'm sorry." My brother, however, probably never will. He refuses to believe that unkind words spoken to me when we were kids could and have damaged me so deeply. Still, I'm letting it go, because the only person being hurt by it now is me. My interactions with my brother are minimal. I love him, but our lives have little common ground and I'm really okay with that now. I won't say there's not pain at the loss of my brother in my life. We once were thick as thieves and best of friends. Those days are long since past and he still makes comments that I don't appreciate. I've stopped reaching out to him. It sucks that our family has come apart, but it has and most of it is directly due to misogyny and a callous disregard for how hurtful some of the things he says to me really are.

Pop, when he became Pop, a sadder, damaged version of the man who he'd been when he was Daddy, took until I was 22yo before he saw the value in my work and my skill at art. He'd diminished and devalued my work earlier in life because of his own upbringing, and a fear I'd be poor my whole life (a valid fear, I might add- how many professions do you know that are routinely called "starving"? Just artists. Art is rarely valued during the artist's lifetime.) I remember the day he called to inform me that he was wrong- that I was gifted and skilled and I should never stop creating art. He'd come across a tiny piece, just a doodle, really, of a blue rose that I'd done in ink and colored pencil. I knew I was gifted. I knew I was skilled. It was still very difficult to believe in my work because the one person I most desperately wanted approval from withheld that.

This is a clear illustration of codependency at the unhealthy level. I'd spent years learning to keep my Pop from slipping into that bad state and when your very survival depends upon being pleasing and soothing, you get really good at it. I'm an expert at smoothing ruffled feathers, calming down red-zone humans on the verge of doing something unpleasant. I'm a master of defusing arguments and keeping the peace.

Of course in doing so I almost invariably have to sublimate my own feelings. I don't allow anger or grief or depression to rise up to the surface fully, ever, without it having gone so far that I cannot grab it and shove it back into containment. Even my joy and exuberance are carefully controlled, as bursting into song or dance also makes many people uncomfortable. I'm an odd bird, always was, but you would seldom eve guess at the depths of my oddity. The facade of normality has been honed to near absolution.

It's an illusion, a veneer to hide behind. Inside this carefully crafted mask I stare out and wonder what the world will think of me when I take the mask off and let myself be me without the restraints locked down tight.

Will the world laugh at me, call me preposterous and bizarre? Probably. I wonder if my skin is half thick enough to take that, or will it drive me back into my mask for safety?

I'm an artist though, and at least a little oddness is expected of us artists.

This month my work will focus on letting my true self out to play. I will cry and laugh and if the urge hits I'll sing and dance. I will make pictures that make me happy, that speak to the beauty I sense in the world around me.

I will buy myself flowers. Once the paycheck goes in the bank I will buy myself a big bunch of brightly hued flowers to put in a vase and look at. Because I deserve flowers. Flowers make me happy.

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